Barack Obama goes to this week's Pittsburgh G-20 with what seems the weakest hand of any American president since Gerald Ford. In reality, he has a far stronger set of cards to play — he just needs to recognize it.
Our adversaries may like our new president, but they don't fear him. And, on the surface, why should they? The national debt is rising faster than the vig for a compulsive, debt-ridden gambler. And our primary rivals, the Chinese, continue to put the squeeze on American producers by devaluing their currency, subsidizing exports and penalizing imports. read more »
Mathew Taunton opens his review of “The Future of Community – Reports of a Death Greatly Exaggerated” (Note 1) with the observation that:
“Community is one of the most powerful words in the language, and perhaps because of this it is frequently misused. A profoundly emotive word, it is also a coercive one, and a key political buzzword in modern times. That community is being eroded in modern Britain is a matter of cross-party consensus, and it is also widely agreed that one of the state’s roles is to devise means of counteracting the decline of communities.” read more »
California may yet be a civilization that is too young to have produced its Thucydides or Edward Gibbon, but if it has, the leading candidate would be Kevin Starr. His eight-part “Dream” series on the evolution of the Golden State stands alone as the basic comprehensive work on California. Nothing else comes remotely close. read more »
Most American cities chose not to bid on the 2016 summer Olympics and with good reason. With the exception of the 1984 Los Angeles games, the Olympics has proved a big time money loser in city after city. More often than not, it has been staged more for the prestige – think of Berlin in 1936 or China in 2008 – it brings to regimes, particularly autocratic ones.
In Chicago, prestige is important, but graft is the real king. In Chicago, one of the most corrupt big cities, the Olympics represents, more than anything, a grand chance for a giant heist. read more »
For the time being, battles over health care and energy seem likely to occupy the attention of both the Obama administration and its critics. Yet although now barely on the radar, there may be another, equally critical conflict developing over how Americans live and travel.
Right now this potential flash point has been relegated to the back burner, as Congress is likely to put any major transportation spending initiative on hold for at least a year, and perhaps longer. This also may be a symptom of mounting concerns over the deficit. Financing major changes in transportation, for example, would probably require higher federal fuel taxes, which would not fly amid a weak economy. read more »
President Obama’s campaign was indeed a revolution, not one of policy, but rather a dramatic change in how candidates communicate with voters. It is a reality that helped make Barack Obama our chief executive, but now threatens his ascendancy as well.
It all started with Obama’s hiring of Chris Hughes, one of the founders of Facebook, as part of his campaign team. Hughes’ job was to develop an online community for the campaign. He was largely dismissed by seasoned political operatives more comfortable with conventional media and campaign tactics. read more »
Not for the first time, reality and politics may be on a collision course. This time it’s in respect to the costs of strategies intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Waxman-Markey “cap and trade” bill still awaits consideration by the US Senate, interest groups – mainly rapid transit, green groups and urban land owners – epitomized by the “Moving Cooler” coalition but they are already “low-balling” the costs of implementation. read more »
Earlier this month the Alaska state legislature, in a special session, voted 44-14 to accept $28.6 million in stimulus funds that Sarah Palin had rejected in May. Sean Parnell, Alaska’s governor since Palin's resignation, says the money will be used primarily for energy efficiency improvements in public buildings.
The tale of the showdown between Palin, the state legislature, and the federal Department of Energy may ultimately reveal as much about state sovereignty under the current administration in Washington as it does about Alaska's internal politics. read more »
1. Young people think and behave the same at all times. One generation is just like the one before it and the one that follows. False: Each generation is different from the one before it and the one that follows. Today’s young people, the Millennials (born 1982-2003), are a “civic” generation. They were revered and protected by their parents and are becoming group-oriented, egalitarian institution builders as they emerge into adulthood. Millennials are sharply distinctive from the divided, moralistic Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) and the cynical, individualistic Gen-Xers (born 1965-1981), the two generations that preceded them and who are their parents. read more »
Late this spring, when voters in California emphatically rejected tax increases to close the state budget gap, they sent a clear message to state policymakers. They were tired of California’s high taxes, which according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, consumed 10.5 percent of state per capita income last year. This compared with a national average of 9.7 percent, making California the sixth most heavily taxed state in the nation.
But if Californians were tired of paying an additional 0.8 percent of their income in state and local taxes, what would they make of research by economists at the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis that estimated that the cost of living in California, based on 2006 data, was a whopping 29.1 percent above the national average? read more »